Throughout the season Condors coach Jay Woodcroft has touted the contributions of every player in the dressing room, from those who play heavy minutes in every game to those who rarely see game action.
With the season on the line on Saturday night, Woodcroft went deep into the player pool well and it paid off with a dramatic 2-1 double overtime win at Rabobank Arena before a delighted 7,226.
Josh Currie, who was second on the Condors in goals during the regular season with 27 and played 21 games in the NHL, got his first playoff goal as his shot from the slot beat Jeff Glass 13:02 into the second overtime.
Rushing out of his net at the other end of the ice after the game-winner was Stuart Skinner, who spent most of the season in the ECHL (41 games) and started the playoffs by watching from the stands.
Skinner, who played just six games for the Condors in the regular season, took over for Shane Starrett in the previous two games and made his first start since March 8 on Saturday night.
All he did was stop 45 shots to help the Condors extend the series to Game 6 on Monday night in San Diego.
If the Condors win on Monday, Game 7 will be in Bakersfield on Wednesday night.
It was a new-look Condors playoff team that managed to extend the series.
Out of the lineup three players who had been in every previous playoff game, defenseman Ethan Bear and forward Luke Esposito (both injured in Friday night’s 4-2 loss in San Diego) and forward Mitch Callahan (healthy scratch).
In were forwards Cameron Hebig (his first playoff game since Game 2 of the Colorado series), Nolan Vesey (who played in the opening game against San Diego) and defenseman Jake Kulevich (who made his playoff debut).
“I think it shows the depth of the organization and the depth of this team,” Currie said of winning with the lineup changes. “We’re comfortable putting anyone in and it showed at times throughout the season when we had guys up or injured and guys filled in. We’re very confident with whoever the coaches want to put in. Everyone in that locker room is willing to contribute. We’re a deep team.”
“Let’s start in net,” Woodcroft said when asked about the lineup changes. “Stuart Skinner started the playoffs not dressing and now he’s played in the last three games in round number two and has given us a chance to win every night, Let’s start there.
“I thought Jake Kulevich came in under tough circumstances and talk about a popular teammate, a guy who lays it on the line every day in practice, who accepts his role and comes to the rink with a smile on his face and a work ethic that could make anyone proud. For him to get his opportunity and shine so bright like he \did today was excellent.
“I thought Nolan Vesey and Cameron Hebig gave us some great minutes up front. They gave us young fresh legs. They were hard, they were heavy, They got pucks behind the other team’s D.”
And they were a key element of the victory Woodcroft said.
“I thought it was an advantage of our team today,” he said. “ I thought we played more players than they did if you looked at the minutes after the game. We used more players, we were harder on pucks and eventually it led to us cracking them in double overtime.”
But before he left the arena, Woodcroft and Co. were already looking toward Game 6.
“We’re going to make a few adjustments, we’re going to have to be even better come Game 6,” Woodcroft said. “We know that. We know it gets harder.”